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Seven Hills

Boston-area exploration, travel notes, crafty things, and other Somervillainy.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Julia Was Here

Scrawled in the pavement outside this (now defunct?) butcher shop in the neighborhood ...

... I noticed these words:

Can you see it? That's right. "Bon appetit. JC."

Julia Child was into graffiti.


Not yet Halloween, and this is what it looked like outside our window yesterday:

Today? 30 degrees warmer and not a cloud in the sky.

We've officially arrived in the land of freakish weather.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Chocolate Chip Brioche

I stumbled across this beauty at the Mariposa Bakery, a happening little place with vivid green walls in the gentrified-but-still-gritty (for Cambridge) neighborhood of Central Square. The clerk helpfully offered to "walk me through" their selection of baked goods, and while I didn't go in looking for anything in particular, I walked out with two of these.

First we must admire the brioche's similarity in shape to a perfect souffle. It's such a tall little pastry. Once the eating begins, we find that the texture is light and surprisingly firm, admirably done, but not really anything to bring us back for more ... until, that is, the effect of the chocolate sinks in, and then it's all over. Dark, dense, a touch of bitter, a touch of sweet. Special enough overall to hold its own as a nice dessert, maybe cut in half with a scoop of coffee ice cream on top.


Monday, October 24, 2005

Boot-Scrape Hill

I took a walk through Beacon Hill the other weekend with a friend visiting from out of town. It's an area I don't know too much about. It's old, cobblestoned, and clearly very upscale these days, judging by the immaculate upkeep of the houses and streets. It was also the fictional neighborhood of TV's lawyer moppet Ally McBeal. But who lived there originally and what's gone on in the past 200 years I'll have to check out.

There seems to be a rivalry there over who has the most tasteful seasonal window box/sill display. Not a plastic ghost or fake pumpkin to be seen - all houses are adorned with exquisite restraint. A single bunch of Indian corn, a Martha-esque wreath of bittersweet, monochrome mum plantings, or artful gourd arrangements such as this one:

Often noted are the old iron boot scrapers next to some of the front steps:

These are pointed out as evidence of the neighborhood's period charm and elegance, but when you think about it, don't they instead indicate an era of considerably more muck than any Ally McBeal could imagine walking in today? Under how many circumstances would the contemporary Beacon Hiller have cause to scrape their boots before entering their pristine historic townhome? There must have been a lot to tramp through back in the horse-and-carriage days when those charming scrapers were installed.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Crafty Davis

I've been wondering how much we'd see of the "contemporary crafts" stores that were cropping up in San Francisco before we left, Urban Knitting Studio and Stitch Lounge in particular. While there are plenty of yarn and craft supply places in woolly old Cambridge, so far all I've seen of the sleeker model of shop is (not surprisingly) centered in Davis Square.

Spark Craft Studios is cool because you can do so much there: knitting, sewing, jewelry-making, paper arts, plus other one-off things. It's a combo of workshop, classes, and crafts lounge, with a sort of skylit loft feeling.

On the purely retail side of things is Magpie, a boutique that specializes in hipstery trinkets and T-shirts by indie designers.

A few covetable things at Magpie...

Addie Pearl's appliqued felt skulls, just in time for Dia des los Muertos:

A big chicken by Ambrosia Porcelain, and related critterware:

There are currently no squirrels in my life, but maybe I could attract some if I had Ryan O'Rourke's Skwerl Haus:

And most favorite, Meomi's kitty iPod/cell phone cozies:

Fly high, little Magpie!

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Mod Lob

We saw this guy in a tank at Faneuil Hall, waiting out his fate as a Maine Lobster Pie with admirable style. He stayed up on his tippy-toes like that, as though there might be special clemency for lobsters with outstanding posture.

A quick word on Faneuil Hall: a sort of "Taste of Boston" food court, it was something I had always avoided in the past, wondering why the poor tourists were told to go there when there are so many restaurants where they could get a real meal, right there in the city of Boston. But I admit my mistake - it was actually really good. Pizzeria Regina and several seafood stands caught my eye, but there was plenty more. Had I but known when I worked downtown that a fresh pot of lobster bisque awaited me not ten minutes away ...

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The News in Lawn Ornaments

The other day we walked by this yard, distinguished in being fully occupied by outdoor statuary.

I liked the way the ornaments were evenly spaced across the lawn, with no concern given to a unifying style or theme. No lawn ornament discrimination here!

The best of the lot: the shiniest, sassiest squirrel ever.

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Sunday, October 09, 2005

Ode to Davis

"If I could be a place, I would want to be Davis Square." That's what a certain friend said to me several years back, and it was one of those things I wished I had thought of myself. But she got there first, and if the day ever comes that we get to be places, she has dibs.

When I lived in Cambridge ten years ago, Davis Square was just barely up-and-coming. People still talked about the T stop being "new"(it was built in '85) and the few trendy spots were vastly outnumbered by family businesses and storefronts that looked like they'd been there since the '40s. Walking out of the T station was like emerging into the bygone Main Street of some small town whose inhabitants blinked in wonder at the aliens from urban 1990s Boston slowly but surely invading their ranks.

I had a few friends who lived over there. We loved to go to the Someday Cafe, a gallery-like space with spotlit white walls and a rotating art installation. Right next door the movie theater showed second-run art movies on a big screen with a crummy sound system and broken-down seats. One night I went there to see "The Secret of Roan Inish" and saw the infamous feminist philosopher Mary Daly from my alma mater in the ladies room, and my "dangerous" older sort-of boyfriend from when I was 19 sitting alone in the audience. (I didn't speak to him, but took satisfaction that he was on his own.) Where else but Davis Square would these people appear in the same place on the same night?

If you were hungry and could hold out until 11pm, you might mosey over to Dolly's at Kay and Chip's Place, a ramshackle diner that was only open in the wee hours, until 5am. Why not just "Dolly's"? Who were Kay and Chip? Doting parents who financed their daughter's eccentric business, but demanded recognition? I never found out. It was a dimly-lit place with, as I remember it, an '80s era music-themed decor. In keeping with the '80s ambiance, the regular waitress was a dead ringer for Pat Benatar. The clientele consisted of late-night club kids, and cabbies. Visiting the restroom was a bit of an ordeal. You went back into the kitchen, asked the cooks to step aside, and hauled up a trapdoor in the middle of the kitchen floor. Then down the stairs and behind a rickety plastic folding door you reached the kind of bathroom usually found off somebody's basement rec-room, which is basically what this was. Breakfast foods were popular menu items at Dolly's, and the onion rings were also good, especially when dipped in Russian dressing.

Now ten years later a lot is the same about Davis Square, but a lot has changed. Dolly's is gone, but other favorite places are still there, like Redbones southern barbeque restaurant and the candlepin bowling alley Bowl-Haven. (Okay, I've never actually been to Bowl-Haven, but I've always meant to go and would be sad if it closed before I got around to it.) The Someday Cafe, I am sad to say, is but a grubby shadow of its original self, but the excellent Diesel Cafe has stepped in to fill the void: spacious and well-tended with a stylish industrial aesthetic and a varied menu of good stuff. We keep hoping one will open in our neighborhood, too. The Burren pub is new since I lived here before, but feels like it's been there forever, that rare place that feels like an actual Irish pub rather than the glossy American idea of an Irish pub.

Also deserving of special mention is the clothing shop Black & Blues. It doesn't look like much when you first walk in: a stripped-down space without much in the way of decor, just racks of casual clothes, both new and vintage. But whoever picks out the inventory has the touch. Nothing's too expensive or too fussy - it's a T-shirts, sweaters and jeans kind of place - the clothes are just cool. They tend to fit well. The thing you like will probably come in a color that flatters you. It will say to you "I would look great with jeans" or "this would be perfect with your favorite boots." When you envision your ideal weekend, these are the clothes you are wearing. Perhaps this says more about my feelings about jeans and sweaters than it does about Black & Blues, but suffice to say, if you feel the same, Black & Blues should serve you well.

Those are just a few reasons to love Davis Square. (We haven't even gotten into the Minuteman Bike Trail factor.) It's really surprisingly bustling these days, even in the middle of a weekday. Who are all these people? I know why I don't have a job, but shouldn't they be at work? I guess they just can't stay away.

Davis Square, if there's room for me, can I be you someday, too?


Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Autumn, Almost

It's still surprisingly warm for October. We had a cab driver recently who told us he's lived in Cambridge all his life - he was 70 - and that when he was a kid it was always much colder by now, and sometimes even snowed. I don't know for sure if I believe him, but when he arrived at our door he asked if "the two English nurses" (the former tenants of our apartment) still lived in the building, so perhaps we should trust his memory.

Anyway, global warming or no, I still managed to spot some signs of fall on the walk I took today.

This treetop was starting to think about turning:

Tomatoes in a community garden, getting ripe:

Summer flowers dried into husks:

Autumn sunflowers going strong:

Seasonal ravioli at Mike's Restaurant in Davis Square. Yes, please!

This tree got tired of waiting for everyone else.